Last week, Joel Stein, a Time essayist, wrote a piece about the changes in the New Jersey town of Edison. It been widely read and widely commented upon (see some of those reactions below, including a Time response to a WSJ article about this). SAJAforum was sent this guest post by RADHIKA MARYA, a recent graduate of the Journalism School at Columbia University and a member of SAJA. She is currently interning for NPR in Washington D.C. She's @RadTV on Twitter.
=> If you have a comment or observation about Stein's or Marya's pieces, please use the comments section below. Our thanks to SAJAer Shefali Kulkarni for her help editing this post.
Welcome to Edison, New Jersey.
Population: Brown people. Everywhere.
This is not an original observation. Edison’s heavy South Asian (mostly Indian) population is world renowned — noted in cultural studies textbooks and acknowledged by the South Asian diaspora. And this topic recently became the subject of Joel Stein’s Time magazine piece, “My Own Private India.”
In this little essay dated July 5, Stein — who grew up in Edison — laments the transformation of his hometown, referring to places like the Pizza-Hut-turned-Indian-sweet-shop. He goes on to make several gross generalizations about Indian-Americans, while waxing nostalgic about his youth.
As an Indian-American journalist, who spent her adolescence in Edison and graduated from Stein’s high school, I’m offended. I’m also not exactly sure if Stein has a point.
I started out livid when I first read the piece. I usually have a tendency to be less-than-politically-correct. I thought the outrage over Gandhi’s depiction on the MTV cartoon Clone High, in 2003, was silly. My relatively multicultural group of friends and I joke around about race all the time.
But even if Stein thought he was writing a hilarious little piece about how his once-white town is overrun by Indians, he just ended up sounding unfunny, uninformed and racist.